Over a month after terror attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai, Pakistan and India are locked in a never-ending struggle of threats and accusations that is instigating an environment of massive negativity, devoid of a meaningful discussion that can lead to managing terrorism in the sub-continent.

Notwithstanding the rather intensified government-to-government confidence building measures that took place prior to the Mumbai tragedy, it is believed that there are elements on both sides of the great divide that remain antagonized with regards to one another’s integrity.

In the context of the Mumbai massacre, however, it is Pakistan’s role that has come under scrutiny. Force structures within Pakistan, such as the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Islamic militant groups, elements in the Pakistan army holding extremist views, etc., belittle the federal government’s role. The Pakistan state’s ‘scattered’ power structure impairs its ability to make the right decisions.

Whereas it is understandably hard to rationalize matters when an intense human tragedy such as the one that happened in Mumbai takes place, it is hoped that the command and control systems within the Indian national security dynamics are strong enough not let the growing tensions escalate into an armed conflict.

Both India and Pakistan are recognized nuclear nations and unless appropriate steps and measures are taken in the coming few weeks, it is likely that the bitterness created by the Mumbai episode may lead to unpleasantness that may have dire consequences on the populations of the two countries.

While it is hard to locate the real role-players within the Pakistani setup, many believe that it is time that the Pakistan government is upfront with the world community. International diplomacy has provided Islamabad with ample opportunities in the past to cooperate in the war against terrorism. The US Secretary of State’s most recent call for cooperation is a strong indication that world’s patience is running low.

It would be advisable if the US engages its allies and work toward a meaningful settlement of the militant issue with Pakistan. This can be possible if ‘mutual friends’ can pressurize Islamabad to indulge in less of a lip service and more of ‘real action’ against the perpetrators of hate on its own soil.

In the meantime, adequate measures need to be put in place that the on-going war of words does not get escalated to a war of nukes.

Pakistan needs to take ownership of the problem and work it out with India. It could be the best possible time in the history of the two countries to forget about their differences and sincerely go after the elements of extremism.

Peaceful co-existence is still a possibility. Before 1947, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in harmony in India. The entire society was made up of one fabric of people called Indians. Terrorism is probably not even a religious issue – it remains an open-ended debate whether those who play havoc with people’s lives even have anything to do with any faith.

This is one moment is the history of South Asia that the two dominant players of the region should act as partners rather than adversaries. Granted that there are tremendous vested interests in the power structures of the two countries, however, why should we assume these are immutable?

Everywhere outside the subcontinent, people are leading change, which comes about much faster today because ideas cross borders much more easily. India and Pakistan should, therefore, let the talk of missile development and nuclear proliferation give way to talk of human development. Let the voice of this great civilization’s poets speak of peace. Let merchants and traders of business interact; let goods flow freely between markets. Most important, let children live, without fear and without rancor, united in hope, speaking the common language of a people at peace with themselves. Once these ‘realities’ are put in place, there is no reason why terrorism will not be eliminated for all times to come. It is only a question of searching for ‘deliverables’ and defining peaceful parameters.

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